OC Marathon: Runner uses 'Hope' to press on

It's tremendously fitting that an inspirational half-marathon runner in Sunday's OC Marathon has the first name of Hope.

Hope Zayas, a 42-year-old Costa Mesa resident, has used hope amid great despair in the form of breast cancer over the past year while training to run in her first half-marathon.

The recent terror at the Boston Marathon has caused security to intensify at the OC Marathon, which starts at Fashion Island in Newport Beach and ends at the OC Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa. But the thought of copycats showing up at the race is not really a concern for Zayas.

She says she's not worried about that. She just wants to run, and inspire. She's well on her way to accomplishing those goals.

Back in 2001, Zayas was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. But last year it came back. Zayas had to endure chemotherapy once again.

She became involved with running to try to be healthy, she said. She ran with a group of friends. The mileage became more and more and soon she wanted to do a half-marathon as a goal.

From September to December she endured five rounds of chemotherapy. During that time she still ran with her friends, Sandra Martinez, Denise Vasquez, Leticia Cabral and Ylem Curiel.

"I wanted to keep busy and keep my mind off the obvious problem," Zayas said. "I don't know if I'm in remission yet, but I'm passing the tests and everything seems to be headed in the right direction."

Zayas appears to be headed in the right direction because of running and because of her attitude. She said she constantly told herself to never give up, even when she was unemployed. It was only until last week, she started a new job working in the accounting department for a local company.

"Everything has been falling into place the past few weeks," Zayas said.

She hopes goodness continues to occur this weekend.

Since dealing with breast cancer twice she has set goals. Reaching them only gives her confidence to strive for more.

She is thinking to have a tattoo drawn on her arm that reads: "Don't Give Up."

That's the statement she adhered to. She was willing to share her story mainly because she wanted to inspire others, especially cancer patients.

"I went to meetings with cancer patients," Zayas said. "I saw people go through it. I just wanted to tell them not give up or throw in the towel because they're sick."

OC Marathon events take place Saturday with the Kids Run and Expo at the OC Fair and Event Center, 9 a.m. to noon.

The marathon begins 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, and the half-marathon at 6:15 a.m.

More than 20,000 participants are expected in the marathon, half marathon, 5K and kids' run, according to an Orange County Sheriff's Department press release.

"Race organizers have been working closely with the Orange County Sheriff's Department as well as Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana Police Departments to ensure the safety of participants and those in attendance. Specialized units will be on patrol including bomb-sniffing canines and SWAT," the release also read.

For more information, visit ocmarathon.com.

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